Let’s face it. This year’s election has us all carrying around a lot of feelings. Many of us have expressed anxiety, frustration, anger, more anxiety, fear, and a little bit of hope. After an already long and difficult 2020, it is totally understandable to feel burdened – perhaps beyond what we can handle sometimes – by this very important election.
With this in mind, here are a few thoughts about the hidden victories we have earned and tips for the weeks to come:
When will we know the results??
It is NORMAL to not know the final results on election night, or even the day after. The Associated Press shared last week that, of the last seven presidential elections, the AP has only been able to “call” a winner by midnight just four times. Washington State has three weeks from Election Day to certify the results. That allows for counting, re-counting, addressing issues with signatures, and more. We’ve had many close elections in Washington, but we’ve almost always known all the results by the end of November.
Speaking of signatures, what happens if there was a problem with my signature?
Typically, the elections office will call, email, and send you a letter several times between the time they notice an issue and the certification deadline. If you put an email address or phone number on the ballot, they will try that option to contact you first; next they will use the contact info they have in the voter file. The sooner you respond, the sooner the issue will be resolved. If a person doesn’t resolve the issue before the three-week deadline, their vote cannot legally be counted. It might be anxiety-producing when this happens, but this is also to protect your vote. You can check your ballot status at VoteWA. After you enter your information, you can use the left-hand toolbar to check “ballot status.”
It is good to remember that elections are about so much more than who wins any given race, even one as big as the presidency. Here are a few things that should provide some longer-term perspective in the next few days:
- Washington State – and maybe the country – is set to shatter voter turnout records! This is unequivocally good news for democracy. Washington state officials predicted that over 90% of eligible voters will cast a ballot this year – that’s well above the previous record of 84.6% turnout in Washington in 2008.
- Elections offices all over the country are stepping up to innovate in the face of voter suppression efforts. Our favorite example is from Harris County, Texas – the county that includes Houston. Many of you heard that the Texas governor limited ballot dropboxes to one per county in a blatantly racist attempt to suppress the Black vote. In response, Harris County defiantly expanded voter access in other ways. They created drive-through polling places and opened 24-hour polling locations, and in doing so shattered their previous voter turnout record.
- Washington State is doing great work to expand access to voting. It makes a difference. We are a state that continuously works to improve voter access. For some examples, in 2018, the legislature passed a democracy package that includes same-day voter registration, paid postage on ballots, added dropbox locations, confirms the three-week certification period to account for mail, and sets us on course to do automatic voter registration in places like the DMV or DSHS. And no one in any party is suing to take those important gains away!
- Out of hardship, we have created amazing organizing capacity. And there is work still to be done. Over the past four years, we have all created incredible grassroots, community-based activism and organizing strategies. This work must go on. There are many, many things we can all do after the election is over: ⇒We can contact newly elected legislators and tell them our priorities. ⇒We can push Congress to pass a COVID relief package. ⇒We can demand progress on critical racial justice priorities. The work might change given who wins elections, but it must go on every year regardless.
While people have understandably focused on the election, it is important to remember our collective commitment to building a community free from poverty, racism, and neglect. No matter the election results, we continue to meet immediate needs, nurture success, and spread change. Together.
Please remember to take care of yourselves – go for a walk, hug someone in your COVID bubble, reach out virtually, eat a good meal, and remember all the good that you do each and every day. More questions about voting and elections in Washington State? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org!